Today is the birthday (1594) of Henry Frederick Stuart, prince of Wales KG, the elder son of James VI of Scotland and I of England. Henry was in line to be the king of England and Scotland, but he died at age 18, probably of typhoid fever, so his younger brother, Charles, ascended the throne when James died. We all know that Charles went on to challenge Parliament, initiate a civil war, and had his head chopped off as a prelude to the first and only English republic. Henry might have ascended as Henry IX had he lived, and history might have taken a radically different course. Henry was not the stubborn hothead that his brother was. Hence my title – What Might Have Been?
The prince’s name derives from his grandfathers: Henry Stuart (Lord Darnley), and Frederick II of Denmark. Prince Henry was born at Stirling Castle, Scotland and became duke of Rothesay, earl of Carrick, baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and prince and great steward of Scotland automatically on his birth. Henry’s baptism on 30th August 1594 was celebrated with complex theatrical entertainments written by poet William Fowler and a ceremony in a new Chapel Royal at Stirling purpose-built by William Schaw. His father placed him in the care of John Erskine, earl of Mar at Stirling Castle, out of the care of the boy’s mother, because James worried that the queen’s Catholicism might affect the son. Although the child’s removal caused enormous tension between Anne and James, Henry remained under the care of Mar family until 1603, when James became king of England and his family moved south.
One of his tutors until he went to England was Sir George Lauder of the Bass, a Privy Counsellor and he was also tutored in music by Alfonso Ferrabosco the younger. Henry’s tutor Adam Newton continued to serve him in England, and some Scottish servants from Stirling were retained, including poet David Murray. The king greatly preferred the role of schoolmaster to that of father, and he wrote texts for the schooling of his children. James directed that Henry’s household “should rather imitate a College than a Court.” Henry passionately engaged in such physical pursuits as hawking, hunting, jousting and fencing, and from a young age studied naval and military affairs and national issues, about which he often disagreed with his father. He also disapproved of the way his father conducted the royal court, disliked Robert Carr, a favorite of his father, and esteemed Sir Walter Raleigh, wishing him to be released from the Tower of London.
The prince’s popularity rose so high that it threatened his father. Relations between the two could be tense, and on occasion surfaced in public. At one point, the two were hunting near Royston when James criticized his son for lacking enthusiasm for the chase, and Henry initially moved to strike his father with a cane, but rode off. Most of the hunting party then followed the son.
Henry is said to have disliked his younger brother, Charles, and to have teased him, although this derives from only one anecdote: when Charles was nine years of age, Henry snatched the hat off a bishop and put it on the younger child’s head, then told his younger brother that when he became king he would make Charles archbishop of Canterbury, and then Charles would have a long robe to hide his ugly rickety legs. Charles stamped on the cap and had to be dragged off in tears.
With his father’s accession to the throne of England in 1603, Henry at once became duke of Cornwall. In 1610 he was further invested as prince of Wales and earl of Chester, thus for the first time uniting the six automatic and two traditional Scottish and English titles held by heirs-apparent to the two thrones. As a young man, Henry showed great promise and was beginning to be active in leadership matters. Among his activities, he was responsible for the reassignment of Sir Thomas Dale to the Virginia Company of London’s struggling colony in North America.
Henry died from typhoid fever at the age of 18, during the celebrations that led up to his sister Elizabeth’s wedding. (The diagnosis can be made with reasonable certainty from written records of the post-mortem examination, although at the time there were rumors of poisoning.) He was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Prince Henry’s death was widely regarded as a tragedy for the nation. His body lay in state at St. James’s Palace for four weeks. On 7th December, over a thousand people walked in the mile-long cortège to Westminster Abbey to hear a two-hour sermon delivered by George Abbot, the archbishop of Canterbury. As Henry’s body was lowered into the ground, his chief servants broke their staves of office at the grave. An insane man ran naked through the mourners, yelling that he was the boy’s ghost. Immediately after Henry’s death, his brother Charles fell ill, but he was the chief mourner at the funeral, which his father, king James (who detested funerals) refused to attend.
Henry’s titles of duke of Cornwall and duke of Rothesay passed to Charles, who until then had lived in Henry’s shadow. Four years later Charles, by then 16 years old, was created prince of Wales and earl of Chester. How different might have British history been had Henry lived, and, especially, if he had produced legitimate heirs? In more ways than I care to count, the Stuarts after James VI and I were a fiasco. Charles led the country into civil war, his son Charles was a profligate, and his second son, James, had to flee the country in disgrace. His replacement, William III, created immense problems in Ireland, and childless Anne barely held on to be replaced by the German Hanoverians whose passionless sterility is still with us. Could Henry have breathed new life into the monarchy? Maybe I should write a fictional historical novel.
Meanwhile, the Stuart age saw the rise in popularity in chocolate from the New World. The first chocolate houses in London opened in the seventeenth century, and rivalled the new fangled coffee houses (and tea drinking) – all three becoming fads in Stuart England. Chocolate was primarily a drink until the 19th century, but this 17th century recipe more closely resembles a dessert than a drink.
To make chocolate cream;
Take a quart of cream, 3 ounces of chocolate grated, boyle it well together and let it stand till tis cold, &yn put in ye whites of 6 eggs beaten to a froth & sweeten it to your taste & then mill it up.